Monday, August 29, 2016

Bear Hill and Crazy Ants in Bear Brook State Park!!!

Every year, my company goes on a wellness hike which I try to help plan. Last year, we hiked Catamount Hill in Bear Brook State Park (Trip Report) which was a great hike for all ages. This year, we decided to explore more of Bear Brook State Park and decided to hike up Bear Hill (PDF Bear Brook State Park Map Here). It was a pleasurable hike, but the desired destination of the summit was probably one of the strangest and scariest hiking objectives I've visited. I’ll explain more on this later.

Lucky for us, we decided to hike on August 25th which was the National Park Service’s birthday. That being the case, New Hampshire State Parks were giving free admission to all that visited and entered.

In order to reach the Bear Hill Trailhead, we decided to park at the Hayes Field Parking area which is located on the west side of Podunk Road in the heart of the park. Essentially, this parking area was a large field that could fit many cars and horse trailers (as horses frequent the roads through the park).

Hayes Field Parking Area on Podunk Road

We started our journey heading South on Podunk Road. We quickly crossed a bridge which brought you over a small pond that was connected to Hayes Marsh. This was one of the more picturesque scenes we got for the day, being able to observe painted turtles and frogs sunning themselves on rocks, as well as a great blue heron relaxing in the late morning heat.

Pond connecting to Hayes Marsh

 Great Blue Heron...Love these birds

 Painted Turtle Sunning!

 Frog Sunning!

Continuing up Podunk Road for about 0.25 miles, we came to the trailhead to the Bear Hill Trail on the right which was marked well with a trail sign. The beginning of the trail was gentle and meandered through some pine forests. The trail itself was very well maintained and had some great bridge features over areas that would most likely be wet…when there isn’t such a bad drought in effect.

Podunk Road

Trailhead Sign

Great trail work here!

As we continued, the incline stayed gentle for about 0.75 miles until we hit a junction. The Bear Hill Trail took a sharp right and headed up at a steeper grade. To the left, a small connecting trail (unnamed) brought you back to Podunk Road (you could see the road from the junction). We continued up the Bear Hill Trail.

Friendly Trail Fungus

The steeper section still had a nicely maintained trail to follow. In about a quarter mile, we reached another junction where the Bear Hill Trail continued descending the south side of the hill. We took a right at this fork and continued toward the summit in just a hundred feet or so.

The summit was strange. It was almost as though the ground was moving all over once you got up there. Also, there were large piles of freshly dug up dirt everywhere. Quickly, we realized the reason the ground was moving was because of millions of ants…not friendly ants, but the ones with red middle sections, that bite aggressively. The piles of dirt were gigantic ant hills. We had walked into the largest ant colony we had ever seen and we were being attacked!

 Gigantic Ant Hills!

 And more!

And more!

The ant hills were probably 3-4 feet in diameter and 2 feet high. There were probably 20 to 30 ant hills total. I took a few photos quickly until I realized these ants weren’t friendly and they were all over me and my daughter. I quickly threw her over my shoulder and ran down the trail about 150 feet or so until I saw no ants walking around on the ground below me. At that point, I wiped off the few ants remaining on us (as they were still trying to bite through our clothing and boots).

After our hiking party was to lower ground and ant free, we made sure everyone was okay and then hiked back down to the junction in the trail prior to the steep section. There we found some logs that trail maintainers had left behind to sit and have lunch. From that point, we retraced our steps back to the Hayes Field parking area.

I was actually upset we couldn’t spend some more time on the summit of Bear Hill to explore. As many hills and mountains in New Hampshire do, this summit had some history to it with some artifacts left behind. It was a location of one of the many old fire towers in New Hampshire. It stood 45 feet tall and was installed in 1939 and removed in 1983 (more information here). But the old cement blocks which supported the tower are still up there. I did get off a picture of one of the foundation supports before retreating from the summit. I really wish I had more time to investigate!

Fire Tower Cement Support Block

GPS Track vs. Map

Trail Signage for this Trek

One the way out of the park, I did notice that on the west side of Podunk Road was an old sign which said “Unknown Civil War Soldier”. Not knowing what this was, I had to stop to check it out. Behind the sign was a clearing with a newer, marble headstone with a flag. Again, it simply read “Unknown Civil War Soldier”. I’ve done some quick searches online and can’t find anything with regards to the tombstone. How did he come to be there? There were no battles in this area that I’m aware of. Anyway, if anyone has any info on this, I’d love to learn more about it.

Unknown Civil War Soldier Tombstone Site


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Shore Path - Bar Harbor

One of my favorite strolls when staying in Bar Harbor, which we usually do at sunset, is the Shore Path. It’s located on the shores of the northeast corner of Mount Desert (where Bar Harbor is). The path is about 0.8 miles long and passes a lot of historical locations. The offshore scenery of the island backdrops, and tall ships and sail boats isn’t bad either. I read on one site that the Shore Path was created or established in 1880 and people from all over the world have walked it.

Shore Path Trailhead Sign

Tall ship at town pier

Sale boat the town pier

The Shore Path starts (at the northern trailhead) at the Town Pier where there’s a sign explaining the origins of the foot path. This is located just north of Agamont Park where there are some cool cannons to view up on the grassy slopes.

After the park, you pass by the Bar Harbor Inn on your right and head down the main path which hugs the shore next to Frenchman Bay. The pathway is pretty wide, about the width of a large sidewalk and is made up of crushed stone with some larger stones sticking up in some places. They definitely act like tripping hazards for little kids. The shore side of the trail has a built up stonewall, I’m guessing to hold back the tide when high.

The Shore Path

The Shore Path

Along the way, you pass by many signs placed by The Museum in the Streets. They were numbered and gave information on historical locations throughout Bar Harbor. I originally thought they were just on the Shore Path, but noticed the sign numbers on the path were only from 20 to 25, so there must be 19 more kicking around the town.

An example of the "The Museum in the Streets" display

There was also evidence of some older sea tending features like hooks embedded in rocks and holes in stones on the side of the trail. When I see stuff like this, I always wonder what they were used for.

Cool historical features in rocks

At the halfway point, you pass Grant Park on your right. It’s a small, open park which is perfect for tossing a ball around. Just past the park, on the rocky shores stands Balance Rock. There's also a sign explaining how it's been an attraction for many years.

Grant Park

Balance Rock

One of the coolest things on this walk was caused by the weather conditions at the time. It was close to rain, as we felt a few sprinkles and it was very humid. It allowed fog to roll into the harbor, creating a cool cloud cover on top of the water, as well as on top of the islands! It was an awesome site to see. My pictures don’t capture how cool this really looked.

 Cool fog on islands

And more fog

And more fog

And more fog

Near the end of the path, you cross a small wooden bridge and turn right (west) toward town, where the path ends on Wayman Lane. From there, we headed back down through the town, creating a loop…while enjoying a stop at a local ice cream shop.

Bridge before trail heads back to town

Stonewall on the side of the trail near the end

Section heading away from the shore, toward town

Map against GPS. Map on left taken from BarHarborInfo.com

I know this isn’t really a “hike” but thought it was worthy of a post. The Shore Path is something that anyone visiting the Island should checkout for its historical significance, quaintness and beauty!


Monday, August 15, 2016

South Bubble and Bubble Rock - Acadia National Park

On the fourth day of vacation, the family and I decided to venture a little further into Acadia National Park, to the north end of Jordan Pond to a small, mounding mountain called South Bubble! The Bubbles (North Bubble and South Bubble) are two smaller mountains next to each other that look like two half spheres protruding from the earth. Very similar to the Cannon Balls over Lonesome Lake, these Bubbles look over Jordan Pond. South Bubble is pretty bald on the top with some fragile alpine vegetation and is the location of the famous Bubble Rock.

We started at “The Bubbles/Bubble Rock” Trailhead off from Park Loop Road, located on the west side just before the road meets the banks of Jordan Pond. The trailhead has a kiosk with a map and one of the famous Acadia trail signs made from an upright, wooden log. I believe the first trail we hoofed was “Bubbles Divide”. The trail ascended gently through hardwood forest and had pretty easy footing, with few rocks and roots.

 First portion of the trail

 Hole features in rocks on the side of the trail

Great trail work by trail maintainers!

The first junction we came to was pretty quick and we continued straight to head toward the bubbles. Again, this trail gently climbed and quickly came to another split, where South Bubble was to the left and North Bubble was to the right. We took a left and the trail became a bit steeper, but was still pretty easy. One thing that helped was the phenomenal trail work that has been done. It’s been setup with logs and rocks to be a huge staircase. This was great for the kids. So, huge kudos goes out to the trail workers on this leg, they did a great job!!!

North Bubble from first viewpoint

 Upper portion of the trail

More trail...really fantastically maintained

Mushrooms on the trail

About 0.2 miles before the summit, on the right side of the trail is a view point with a large area to take a rest and sprawl your stuff out. There’s some great views toward North Bubble, toward some mountains on the ridge line to the west (not sure which ones) and toward Jordan Pond’s north end. After taking a few photographs, we continued up toward the summit.

 Summit sign, slightly leaning :/

 Searl Summit Foot Shot!

Slightly restricted views from the summit cairn to the west

More restricted views

The root and rock filled, dirt trail gave way to granite ledge and small scrub blueberry bushes like you’d see near the summit of many mountains. It wasn’t long before we came to a large cairn of rocks with a summit sign publishing an elevation of 768ft. Although this seems pretty small, it felt pretty big when the base of the mountain is actual sea level!

 The eastern slopes of Cadillac Mountain. You could see cars making their way up and down the auto road...didn't come out in the picture, though.
 Bubble Rock...the picture doesn't do it justice. It's probably 10 feet tall or so.
Old pins in the summit ledges...maybe for an old antenna or tower structure. Not sure what.

To the northeast of the summit is a little foot trail that allows you to make your way down to the ledges. This is where the famous Bubble Rock is teetering on the edge of the cliffs. The rock is enormous…not as large as the Glen Boulder, but a good runner up for sure! As most boulders were put in place, glacial erratic is responsible for Bubble Rock’s current perch. Like most boulders on a cliff, it looks like it could come barreling down the mountain at any time, ready to demolish the road below…it’s pretty cool! More info on the Bubble Rock here.

To the west from south ledges

Great views of Jordan Pond with open ocean way off in the distance

Small cairns on south ledges

After checking out the boulder and having lunch on the ledge, we followed the South Bubble Trail south past the summit to the southern ledges of the mountain. Here, we got a breathtaking view of Jordan Pond, with some mountains and open ocean in the background. It was worth the jaunt to this end of the mountain. After taking a few shots and enjoying the views, we headed back to the trailhead the same way we came.

Map against GPS tracking

The hike was 1.75 miles per my GPS and was very easy for little kids. I would highly recommend this hike for families with little ones (mine are two and five and had no problem). Like you would with all open ledges, though, make sure your kids stay at arm’s length as they could take an easy tumble on the cliffs.

Trail signage

The parking situation was probably the toughest part of this journey. We got their rather early so we were able to claim a parking spot. However, with limited spaces, an overcrowded National Park and no roadside parking allowed, it’s not easy to find a spot to leave your car at this trailhead. So the moral of the story is, get there early!!!